Leave No Trace
Stars: Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie
Writer-director Debra Granik’s long awaited follow-up to ‘Winter’s Bone’, adapted from Peter Rock’s novel ‘My Abandonment’ is a low-key and humane look at characters living off the grid, which plays like a more authentic and thoughtful take on ‘Captain Fantastic’, as helmed by Kelly ‘Wendy and Lucy’ Reichardt. Father Will (Foster) and his twelve-year-old daughter Tom (McKenzie) live in Forest Park, a huge area of woodlands on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon, foraging for what food they can and collecting rainwater to drink. When they have to venture into town to get essential supplies, Will peddles his PTSD drugs for shopping money. The drugs are one of the scant clues supplied to account for his withdrawal from society. Then, after being spotted by chance, Will and Tom are taken to the social services for questioning. A sympathetic social worker (Millican) attempts to find a place for them to live, mindful of Will’s choices, but also aware of his daughter’s need for outside contact with others. While the picture lacks the narrative drive and allegorical power of ‘Winter’s Bone’, it features (another) breakthrough performance from a relatively unknown young female actor, with Thomasin more than holding her own against the ever-estimable Foster. Once more Granik explores the little nooks and crannies of American life other filmmakers don’t care to examine, while exhibiting a real empathy for her characters. Will is not some zealot, rather a deeply damaged man struggling to do what he feels is best for his daughter under the circumstances. And despite, or maybe because of, the languid pacing, the conclusion carries a considerable emotional punch.